Work Models

  1. Flow Model
  2. Sequence Model
  3. Artifact Model
  4. Cultural Model
  5. Physical Model
  6. Metaphors


  1. Design Problem
  2. Literature Review
  3. Work Models
  4. Design Patterns
  5. Design Experiments
  6. Lesson Ideas
  7. Montessori Computes
  8. Thinking About Circles

Related Links

Patterns and Design



There are a number of stakeholders involved in shaping the classroom environment and activity, including the children and teacher in the classroom, parents, school administrators and staff, and the school board. Beyond the school, there are researchers in the human sciences who are interested in studying children, teacher trainers, accrediting institutions, teacher organizations, content experts, designers of learning instruments, manufacturers and publishers of educational material. In the case of public schools, community activists and policy makers in local government are also involved. A consideration of the roles of the teacher is given below. Notes on the roles of other stakeholders will appear later.

In the Contextual Design process, roles are not meant to be in one-one correspondence to stakeholders. Rather, they are groupings of related responsibilities. For example, Montessori herself played the roles of Scientist, Designer, and Teacher Trainer. A Montessori teacher can take on any of those same roles, as well as Guide and Preparer of the Environment.

The Teacher, the Scientist

Our flow model must answer questions such as: How is information exchanged between teachers and researchers? How are researchers made aware of problems and best practices in education? How are teachers made aware of research findings? How do parents, administrators, publishers and political entities influence researcher and teacher practice? How do scientists (and teachers in their role as scientists) communicate with one another?

Goals of Research [should this be in cultural model?]

Research can be used to (1) validate existing educational practices, (2) improve existing practices or (3) make discoveries about the nature of childhood and learning.


Depending on their goals with respect to a particular research project, conflicts of interest may arise between designers and implementors of particular educational programs and researchers gathering data on the programs. For example, a researcher may wish to set up a control group in testing a new approach to teaching multi-digit multiplication while teachers might feel it unfair to deprive a group of students of "the latest" approach merely for the sake of a study. Further, designers of the approach have a vested interest in demonstrating its efficacy, which may skew their interpretation of data gathered in the classroom. There may also be conflicts between teachers or researchers focused on improving practice and researchers focused on making discoveries about childhood.

Montessori's research goals

Montessori recognized the problem of possible conflicts of interest between researchers and teachers. She noted that "[educational] experiments have been, in most cases, in the hands of physicians who have taken more interest in their especial science than in education."(Montessori, 1912, p. 4)

In Montessori's view, the purpose of scientific pedagogy was twofold. First, its purpose was to improve the schools:

Anthropology and psychology have never devoted themselves to the question of educating children in the schools, nor have the sceintifically trained teachers ever measured up to the standards of genuine scientists.

The truth is that the practical progress of the school demands a genuine fusion of these modern tendencies, in practice and thought; such a fusion as shall bring scientists directly into the important field of the school and at the same time raise teachers from the inferior intellectual level to which they are limited today (Montessori, 1912/1964, p. 4).

Second, scientific pedagogy was meant to deepen our understanding of human beings:

The possibility of observing the developments of the psychical life of the child as natural phenomena and experimental reactions transforms the school itself in action into a kind of scientific laboratory for the psychogenetic study of man. It will become—perhaps in the near future—the experimental field par excellence of the psychologist (Montessori, 1917/1995, p. 125).

Models of teacher-researcher interaction

  • teacher as action researcher
  • various kinds of teacher-researcher collaboration
  • transmission model, in which teacher receives and implements results of research
    • reading published research results
    • teacher training and workshops


Researchers have found that teachers rarely base their decisions on research (Hargreaves, 1999, Louis et. al., 1984 as cited by Atkinson, 1992). Various reasons are given for this finding.

  • teachers generally have insufficient time, background or support to conduct research, participate in research or read research (Schoenfeld & Burkhardt, 2003), or insufficient support to apply training
  • some changes in practice may be beyond the control of a particular teacher or administrator
  • improving practice may not be a goal of a particular researcher, research paper, or conference
  • researcher may not make a case for change that is persuasive enough to merit the effort
  • it may be too difficult to figure out how to translate research findings into changes to practice
  • research results may be too difficult to implement
  • researchers typically select research problems according to their own agendas rather than asking teachers what problems need to be solved or which best practices need to be investigated (Schoenfeld & Burkhardt, 2003)

Montessori's model of teacher-researcher interaction

Like Dewey (and many present day educational researchers), she felt that the teacher had an important role to play in educational research.

The [classroom teacher] can make psychological observations which, if collected in an orderly way and according to scientific standards, should do much toward the reconstruction of child psychology and the development of experimental psychology. I believe that I have by my method established the conditions necessary to the development of scientific pedagogy; and whoever adopts the method opens, in doing so, a laboratory of experimental pedagogy (Montessori, 1912, p. 371)


Pending Work On Roles

More detail needs to be added to the roles above through classroom observation. There are also other roles to consider, in particular the role of the child. The teacher also interacts with colleagues, parents, administration and manufacturers and publishers of learning materials, so all of these other roles need to be examined to some extent.

For the role of the scientist, more detail needs to be added about the different versions of positivism and how Montessori's thinking evolved with respect to positivism and other frameworks she may have adopted.

Montessori's comments on race and anthropometry in Pedagogical Anthropology need to be placed in the context of the time when the book was written and careful analysis needs to be done on the evolution of her thought in this area. Examination of this work is important for understanding the framework that Montessori started with. Examination of the changes in Montessori's thinking over time is important for seeing how scientists overcome bias in gathering and interpreting data.


[1] The term scientific pedagogy was used in English by psychologist Harry Kirke Wolfe (1858-1918) to describe his research. He was the second American to earn a degree under Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) after James McKeen Cattell (1860-1944). Wolfe completed his studies with Wundt in 1886, ten years before Montessori received her doctorate in medicine and began her studies in anthropology and education. Montessori attributed the term "Pedagogia Scientifica" to Giueseppe Sergi (1841-1936), an influential Italian anthropologist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

[2] Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) was the founder of the Theosophical Society.

[3] Morselli was also an admirer of "the Italian Lombroso" and a detractor of "the Austrian Freud" (see As well as rationalizing brutality toward non-whites, the chauvinism of the day impeded exchange between thinkers of different backgrounds. Kilpatrick's attacks on Montessori were no doubt related to his views on Catholics. Morselli's anti-semitism did not prevent him from praising Cesare Lombroso, a Jewish Italian anthropologist, but certainly affected his attitude toward Freud. This attitude may have rubbed off on Montessori, who never developed a serious relationship with Anna Freud and others in the Vienna circle, despite their expressed interest in her work.

[4] Luigi Ferri (1826-1895) was an Italian philosopher. Terenzio Mamiani (17991885) was an Italian writer and statesman and a teacher of Ferri's. According to Turner (1903, p. 633), both philosophers were proponents of ontologism, "an ideological system which maintains that God and Divine ideas are the first object of our intelligence and that the intuition of God the first act of our intellectual knowledge" (see During the second half of the nineteenth century, Mamiani "associated his name and influence with rationalistic movement represented by Ferri (1826-1895), Ferrari (1812-1876), and Ausonio Franchi (C. Bonavino) (1821-1895)." (Turner, 1903, 633). To add to the confusion, Turner further says that "the principles of positivism were defended by [Ferri, Ferrari and Franchi] and taught systematically by Roberto Ardigò [and others]" (Ibid). While Ardigò may have gotten his positivism from Ferri and others, it seems unlikely that he was an ontologist after he left the Catholic church in 1871. However, this quote from Turner might give us a hint about the nature of the "speculative positivism" that Montessori was talking about. It looks like Ardigò had sympathies with rationalism if not ontologism in addition to being a positivist. According to his wikipedia entry, he can be distinguished from Comte in his belief that thought is more important than matter and his insistence on systematic psychological inquiry.

[5] A Paduan is a resident of Padua, a city in northern Italy. Ardigò was a professor at the University of Padua.